Master Detective Archives Rain Code

I have to hand it over to the Rain Code development staff: They are very adept at completely upsetting your expectations from the start. I certainly expected to be shocked and surprised, given that these are the minds behind the beloved Danganronpa series-they know a thing or two about throwing narrative curve balls at players out of nowhere-but even I didn’t expect what happened after about 30 minutes of introduction. I wanted to put the switch down and say a little “Bravo!”applaud. It’s a bit of a shame, though, because after that, none of the other matters ever reach the same peak, despite some good times. This is the Code of the rain in a nutshell: it cannot quite reach the greatness of what preceded it.

Rain Code begins with a young man waking up in some kind of storage room. All he remembers is that his name is Yuma Kokohead and that he has to take a train that is heading to Kanai Ward-a corporate city cut off from most of the outside world, surrounded by perpetual neon-lit darkness and rain, run by Amaterasu’s megacorp and controlled by the militarized force of the peacekeepers.

Shortly after getting on the train, he discovers why he is going there: he is part of the World Detective Organization, which sends several agents to investigate Kanai Ward’s nasty secrets. He also soon finds out why he has amnesia: it turns out that he made a deal with a god of gone for special powers and offered his memories in exchange.

This god of gone, Shinigami, hangs out mainly in the form of a small ghost that only Yuma can see. He reads her thoughts and makes sarcastic comments until there is a secret to be solved, that is, when Shinigami stops time and transforms into a busty young demon girl to take her to secret Labyrinths of the mind palace where things go crazy.

Here, he must fight logical monsters, escape from vile traps with false solutions and unlock the doors with proof keys that the Shinigami barf under a rainbows rainbows. And also maybe crush the barriers of thought riding Shinigami in giant kaiju. And play Pop-up pirate with her in a barrel on the beach. Yeah, it’s just a little weird.

A lot has been said about the fact that the Rain Code development team led the beloved Danganronpa adventure game series, which you will clearly see (and hear) in the character design, music and deliciously wacky character concepts. The similarities are more than profound, however: the gameplay structure of Rain Code is clearly modeled on these games.

Each of the game’s six long chapters has a plot-heavy setup, a Finish, an investigation, and then a collection of mini-games to catch the culprit … only, instead of a mass trial led by a malicious bear, you brave an extra-dimensional detective dungeon. Even the logical gonematch actions you fight in the dungeons are essentially a remake of Danganronpa’s incessant contradiction-seeking debates, but with a sword instead of a gun to eliminate the lies.

Yuma, both a detective trainee and an amnesiac, has big obstacles to overcome. Fortunately, the other members of WDO-a motley crew of eccentric weirdos with personality traits of love or dislike- all have a unique supernatural ability, ranging from detecting vital energy or revisiting a crime scene from the moment it was first seen in the past, to separating the soul from the body or gradually crossing solid walls. Yuma soon discovers that he can share these special skills with their bearer, and they become crucial during investigations to gather clues and evidence. For example, Yuma can use casanova Desuhiko’s odious disguise ability to infiltrate an elite private school where a suspicious Finish took place in the theater club. Learning how to use these abilities is a neat twist, although the times you can actually play with them are very limited.

As the host of all the dark events, Kanai Ward himself is a key element of the game: a damp, murky and disturbing place lined with neon lights and winding passages. A lot of thought has gone into the artistic design of the city and its assorted regions, and most chapters offer you part of the time to freely explore and admire the different parts of the city and talk to the NPCs. Unfortunately, that’s about all you can do; there are no shops or activities to be found here. You can take on side quests to increase your detective rank (and learn useful skills about the secret Maze via a skill tree), but these quests are universally bland, with standard extraction quest objectives and completely immemorial NPC dialogues, which ultimately gives the impression of unnecessary padding.